Category Archives: Pacific Northwest

What Prisoners Tell Us: The Making of Concrete Mama

Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla, by Ethan Hoffman and John McCoy, won the Washington State Book Award in 1981 for its stark, sympathetic portrayal of life inside the maximum-security prison. The University of Washington Press is publishing a new edition of the book, long out of print but as relevant as ever.

McCoy was recently interviewed by prison scholar Dan Berger, who wrote the book’s new introduction, in Berger’s class at the University of Washington Bothell. For University Press Week, here are some edited highlights from the interview about our neighbors behind bars.


DAN BERGER: Why did you decide to write about the prison?

JOHN MCCOY: My first glimpse of the penitentiary was as a cub newspaper reporter at the Walla Walla Union Bulletin. At that time—this was 1977—the State Penitentiary was ending a reform experiment in which prisoners were allowed a fair amount of autonomy inside the walls and allowed outside furloughs. The theory was that the more contact that prisoners have with the outside world, the better the chances are that they can be safely returned to society. But this reform project was failing. I wondered why.

So you and Ethan Hoffman, a photographer at the paper, quit your newspaper jobs to do a book on the penitentiary?

The guard in 9-tower, his rifle ready, watches as new prisoners arrive “on the chain,” a bus that carries them shackled from the state corrections reception center in Shelton.

Yes. Ethan and I spent four months in the fall and winter of 1978-79 inside the prison. We were allowed to come in as early as 5:00 in the morning and stay as late as 10:00 p.m. We were unescorted, which was absolutely crucial. If we walked around with a guard, we were not going to get any information from prisoners. Then, towards the end of our time there, we spent some time with guards, which was interesting, because some prisoners who had talked to us earlier ceased talking to us. It’s a very polarized world inside prison.

How did you approach doing the book?

As journalists. Ethan and I were not prison experts. We simply wanted to photograph and report on what we saw inside the walls. Here’s what prisoners tell us. Here’s what their day-to-day life is like depending on whether they’re tough or vulnerable, men or women, black, white, or brown. Here’s what the Parole Board members say. Here’s what the warden says. Here’s the guards.

Besides the warden, did you have to talk to others to get access?

Not to get access—but politically, I had to talk to the head of the guards’ union and the prisoners who served on the Resident Council, the elected representatives of the general population.

One thing that helped pave our way with prisoners was Ethan’s decision to give anyone who asked a nice 8-by-10-inch black-and-white portrait photo of themselves. So Ethan had guys posing with weights, stripped to the waist, displaying all their tattoos. He took pictures of whatever they wanted, but one picture only. And in return, they signed a release form that said we could use these pictures in the book. Ethan spent a lot of nights in the darkroom because prisoners wanted quick results. Nonetheless, the decision created a lot of goodwill and gave us great access.

Kim, right, spends time with Leomy, his “inside lady” and a member of Men Against Sexism, a club popular with prison gays and queens.

At this time, there were all kinds of areas that were off limits to guards. So, in order to enter these areas, we had to have either the president of the Lifers’ Club, or the Chicano Club, or the Meditation Group, or Men Against Sexism, or some other prison leader, either accompany or approve us. We had to tread cautiously. If we got crosswise with any particular group, we would be out of there, or we could have caused harm to ourselves. There were certainly some tense situations with both prisoners and guards.

Could you describe an average day in those four months you were there?

Prisoners were locked in their cells overnight. The day began with morning chow, about 7:00, for the general population—those not confined in the segregation unit or in protective custody.

Prisoners were released by tiers and walked to the chow hall—an ugly, cold brick building with a lot of cold metal tables and metal serving trays. Sometimes there were fights in the chow hall, or food was thrown, and guards intervened.

Some prisoners spend hours playing dominoes in the black prisoners’ club room.

After chow, most prisoners had nothing to do. There were certainly not enough jobs to employ even a minority of the 1,400 prisoners. So they were free to go back to their cells or wander the breezeways. There was recreation time in the gym, the weight room, and the Big Yard, where prisoners played baseball, card games, and smoked weed. On occasion, the bikers were permitted to race their motorcycles around the inside perimeter. There was also a limited education program—which soon ended when the Legislature withdrew funding—in which prisoners could complete their GED or get community college credits or university credits. Occasionally, there were movies or shows in the auditorium.

Some prisoners hung out at their private club rooms. Although you could get an infraction for smoking weed, it was basically tolerated. And there was heroin and other drugs smuggled in from outside.

You could work if you could find a job in the kitchen, chow hall, laundry, license plate shop, or elsewhere. Pay was pitiful—a few cents an hour. The primary advantage of a job was access to things you could steal and then exchange or sell.

Lockup in the evening came early, right after dinner, unless you had a permit to be out for work or prison business.

Because most of the population spent most of their time in four-man, 10-by-12-foot cells, your cellmates were very important. The Resident Council ostensibly helped prisoners find compatible cellmates. But there were powerful guys in the prison who really controlled the cells. Often, you had to buy a cell. Sometimes you’d get a cell equipped with a television, a nice mattress, and so on, but you paid for that. And you paid for that with money, drugs, sex, cigarettes, pruno—which is prison-brewed liquor—or other things.

What did you expect to find at the prison and did you find it?

First of all, we knew it was a good and unexpected story. Look, these guys are in motorcycle gangs, and they’re in prison, and they’re racing their Harleys? We knew Ethan could get fabulous pictures. I mean, a sweat lodge—I’d never been to a sweat lodge before, and certainly not one inside a prison. A casino night at the Chicano Club. There were transgender or cross-dressing dancers. There was sex, there was drugs. So, without making a judgment call, we had to ask: What’s happening here? And why?

“Nert,” left, and “Kickstand” are bikers, cellmates and tattoo enthusiasts.

Our hope was to do a fair, balanced, and accurate account of life inside a state penitentiary—a notorious state penitentiary, perhaps—at a time in which hard questions continued to be asked about the purpose of prison.

How do you know you got at the truth?

Ethan had it easier, because photos don’t lie. I had to pursue multiple sources. Sometimes I heard prisoners explain their crimes and protest their innocence in ways that were preposterous. Fortunately, a helpful prison trustee was willing to share confidential records with me. And a prison attorney was quietly willing to access court records for me. I was able to verify prison stories and eventually developed a pretty good BS detector.

How did the experience of those four months in the prison affect you?

I went away humbled by the experience. I left with the strong feeling that this is really a destructive place. It’s destructive for those who are there, both keepers and the kept. It’s dangerous. It does little to help people adjust to the real world. In fact, it destroys a lot of prisoners’ chances of having a successful transition.

And it picks on the poor, the less educated, and the mentally ill. Incarcerated people are disproportionally poor and minorities. They have unaddressed behavioral issues; learning issues; addiction issues. Their keepers, at Walla Walla and prisons elsewhere, tend to be disproportionally white, rural, with a high school education, often veterans, and with limited understanding of those they are charged with “correcting.”

Why is Concrete Mama relevant 40 years later?

Ed Mead, a founder of the radical George Jackson Brigade and a Marxist revolutionary serving time for armed assault on a bank, is confined to the “intensive segregation unit” commonly known as “the hole.”

For two reasons: First, prison life doesn’t change much. Prisoners spend most of their time caged. They have little to do. They band together for protection and personal gain. And they generally leave prison more alienated and damaged than when they came in. As a result, two-thirds of them return.

Secondly, starting in the early 1970s, Washington State had tried to reform its prisons by emphasizing rehabilitation rather than punishment. That meant giving prisoners a good deal of autonomy with the expectation that if they could make something of themselves inside, they could be successful on the outside. For a variety reasons, it was a failure. Ethan and I were there as the experiment finally fell apart. But you have to ask, what have we done since?


John A. McCoy is the author of A Still and Quiet Conscience, a biography of Seattle Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen. He was a reporter and editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and has taught writing courses at the University of Washington-Tacoma and Seattle University.

Dan Berger is associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell, and an interdisciplinary historian focusing on critical prison studies. He is the author of several books, including Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, and coauthor most recently of Rethinking the American Prison Movement.

To learn more about Concrete Mama: Prison Profiles from Walla Walla or to buy your copy of the book, click here.

Exhibitions on View: ‘Captive Light: The Life and Photography of Ella E. McBride’

McBride_Untitled_self portrait_72dpi.jpg

Ella McBride, Untitled (self-portrait with camera shadow), circa 1921. Gelatin silver print, 9¾ × 7⅜ inches. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, Janet Anderson Collection UW38940.

We are delighted to distribute the catalog, Captive Light: The Life and Photography of Ella E. McBride, to accompany the exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum. The exhibition is on view through July 22, 2018.

Internationally acclaimed fine-art photographer Ella McBride (1862–1965) played an important role in the Northwest’s photography community and served as a key figure in the national and international pictorialist photography movements. Despite her many accomplishments, which included managing the photography studio of Edward S. Curtis and being an early member of the Seattle Camera Club, McBride is little known today. Captive Light: The Life and Photography of Ella E. McBride reconsiders her career and the larger pictorialist movement in the Northwest.

Mazamas_EllaonRainier_72dpi.jpg

Edward S. Curtis, Untitled, 1897. A party of Mazamas on the summit of Pinnacle Peak. Mount Rainier 1897 Collection, Mazamas Library and Historical Collections, VM1993-016 print03. [McBride is the woman in the center in the striped shirt, bow tie, and high crowned hat. Curtis is to her left, holding a camera, wearing glasses and a white neckerchief.]

An avid mountain climber, McBride was a member of the Mazamas, a Portland, Oregon mountaineering organization. She met Edward S. Curtis in 1897 when he was leading an ascent of Mt. Rainier. They became friends and Curtis convinced her to leave her teaching position to relocate to Seattle and assist him in his studio. She accepted, and by 1907, she was the manager of his studio. In 1916, she opened her own commercial studio, which she operated for more than thirty years.

McBride_AShirleyPoppy_72dpi-576x665.jpg

Ella McBride, ‘A Shirley Poppy,’ 1925. Gelatin silver print on Textura tissue, 9½ × 7¼ inches. Private collection. Photo © TAM, photo by Lou Cuevas. [‘A Shirley Poppy’ was shown in nineteen national and international salons.]

McBride embraced the painterly qualities of Pictorialist photography enthusiastically. In 1921, she participated in her first exhibition. During the 1920s, she was listed as one of the most exhibited Pictorialist photographers in the world. She was a prominent member of the Seattle Camera Club (active 1924–1929). She also worked as an advocate for the environment and cofounded the Seattle branch of the Soroptimist Club, an organization for business and professional women.

Unfortunately, her artistic ambitions were cut short by the realities of the Great Depression. Most of McBride’s photographs and negatives have been destroyed, but you can see some of her studio photos here.

Captive Light: The Life and Photography of Ella E. McBride surveys McBride’s development as an artist and her role in Washington’s early photography community through a selection of over sixty of her images of flowers, still lifes, portraits, and landscapes. This exhibition was organized by Tacoma Art Museum and is part of the museum’s Northwest Perspective Series. 

All images photo © TAM.

 

Photo Essay: ‘Razor Clams’

What is the ultimate Father’s Day gift? Is it buried treasure, or is it spending time with loved ones? Why not both? This year, give Dad a guide to a hobby you can enjoy together.

In Razor Clams, David Berger shares with us his love affair with the glossy, gold-colored Siliqua patula and gets into the nitty-gritty of how to dig, clean, and cook them using his favorite recipes. In the course of his investigation, Berger brings to light the long history of razor clamming as a subsistence, commercial, and recreational activity, and shows the ways it has helped shape both the identity and the psyche of the Pacific Northwest.

Project Razor Clam
Washington State has many symbols – a state song, a state bird, a state tree – and now a move is underway to designate the Pacific razor clam as the state clam. Coastal legislators Brian Blake, Joel Kretz, Steve Tharinger, and Jim Walsh introduced House Bill 3001 in February and they plan to reintroduce the non-partisan bill again during the next legislative session. Rep. Blake, a razor clammer since childhood, says the Pacific razor clam well deserves the official title of state clam for its significance to the state’s history, identity, and economy.

Learn  more about the Pacific razor clam and celebrate the publication of Razor Clams at this event:

July 10 at 1 p.m., Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Redmond Senior Center, Redmond, WA


What drives thousands of people to Pacific coast beaches every year, regardless of the season or the weather? The unique activity known as razor clamming: chasing after the delectable Pacific razor clam, endemic to the West Coast and especially numerous in Washington, Oregon and south-central Alaska. When I first moved to Seattle, I had heard something about the near-mythic activity of razor clamming, and one year I finally tried my hand. I was startled to find a horde lined up on a sandy beach near Ocean Shores, Washington, lanterns and headlamps bobbing in the pre-dawn darkness like so many fireflies, waiting for the low tide. I only managed to get one clam that dig, but I became an aficionado. Over time I learned that razor clamming is sometimes challenging, sometimes cold and wet, but always fun. My wife and I eventually had many questions about the activity and the razor clam itself, which led to writing Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest.

In researching the book I discovered just how important the resource has been for the region’s history and identity. The clams were an important food source for coastal Northwest Native Indians and early settlers. Large-scale commercial exploitation began after 1900 with canned razor clams becoming a cupboard staple. Following WWII, commercial canning petered out, but the undertaking as recreation continued to grow, and today razor clamming regularly attracts folks of all ages armed with shovels, tubes, buckets, nets and a shellfish license. For many people it is their favorite outdoor pursuit, a profound family-centric experience, part ritual and part way of life. Other natural resources have fallen by the wayside, but razor clamming and its time-honored rhythms endure.

The photos below show key aspects of the modern recreational fishery as well as iconic moments from the past.

Digging for Pacific razor clams near Copalis Beach in Washington state. A good low tide and favorable weather can bring out a horde of people. Razor clamming is a quintessentially Northwest phenomenon.

Credit: David Berger

This woman is using the tube to remove a coring of sand and, with luck, a razor clam as well. While the Northwest is famous for shellfish such as oysters and mussels, most of these are farm-raised. Pacific razor clams, by contrast, are only available as a wild food.

Credit: David Berger

An old-timer puts his razor clams in a vintage wire basket once used for gathering eggs. Razor clamming attracts folks of all ages and gender. It’s not too unusual to read in a coastal obituary that “so and so loved to razor clam, and took pride in always getting a limit.”

Credit: David Berger

A family heading to the surf with aluminum tubes and buckets. Razor clamming is a family-centric activity, one of the qualities that make the undertaking so special.

Credit: David Berger

Some people are darn serious about getting their legal daily limit of clams. This gentleman is using a special narrow-bladed shovel to dig for clams. Razor clams are wily and can move down quickly in the soft sand near the water. Shovel diggers by the surf must be quick about their business.

Credit: David Berger

The quarry, the Pacific razor clam. A variety of clams around the world are called razor clams, but this species, Siliqua patula, is only found on the West Coast on certain beaches from northern California to south-central Alaska. It is a large, meaty clam prized for the table. To prepare, razor clams are removed from the shell, cleaned of sand and viscera, and then fried, sautéed or made into chowder.

Credit: David Berger

A razor clam festival in Long Beach, Washington in 1940. A highlight was cooking the “world’s largest clam fritter,” in a giant skillet. The fritter required two hundred pounds of razor clams and twenty dozen eggs.

Credit: Pacific Shellfish Ephemera/Matt Winters Collection

Like salmon, razor clams are an icon of the region and part of cultural identity. In Long Beach, WA, visitors love to take pictures next to a wooden razor clam sculpture as well as the original pan from the 1940s razor clam festival. The razor clam squirts on the hour and is squirting here if you look closely.

Credit: David Berger

A cup of razor-clam chowder at the Razor Clam Festival chowder competition in Ocean Shores. Acknowledging the razor clam’s importance and enthusiastic supporters, Washington state has two razor clam festivals each spring, one at the city of Long Beach, the other at the city of Ocean Shores.

Credit: David Berger

Women and men in 1910 collecting razor clams and Dungeness crabs. The clams are in the wire-wheeled cart in the middle of the photograph. Razor clams have been popular for as long as there have been people on the coast including among the original Native American inhabitants.

Credit: Museum of the North Beach

Commercial clammers with surf sacks harnessed to their bodies. They were collecting primarily for the razor clam canning industry and could easily gather several hundreds of pounds on a good low tide. The canning of razor clams faded away in the post-WWII 1950s era.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the number of people digging razor clams recreationally swelled as folks realized they could drive to the beach with the family, enjoy the seashore, dig some clams, and have a fine meal of the tasty bivalve.

Postcard. Credit: Alan Rammer collection

In Washington and Oregon people are allowed to drive on the beaches. Utilizing a vehicle helps make the activity easier to undertake regardless of the weather, which is sometimes cold, wet, and windy.

Credit: David Berger

Father with his son and a net full of clams, in 2014. Despite the emergence of “nature-deficit disorder” and such distractions as professional sports teams and video games, razor clamming remains a living tradition in the Northwest that attracts many tens of thousands every year.

Credit: David Berger


David Berger has been a contributor to the food feature, “Northwest Taste,” in the Pacific Magazine, and is former art critic for the Seattle Times. He is a recipient of a Metcalf Fellowship for Marine and Environmental Reporting.

Seattle Independent Bookstore Day

The last Saturday in April is one of our most favorite and sacred literary holidays — Independent Bookstore Day. Here in Seattle, we are especially excited since UNESCO declared us a City of Literature last year as part of the Creative Cities Network.

Use #BookstoreDay to see all of the fun nationwide, and #SEABookstoreDay (Instagram and Twitter) to follow along with us in Seattle.

Wherever you are, make sure you visit your nearest indie tomorrow!


Celeste Ng, author of the bestselling novels Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere, is 2018 Ambassador for Independent Bookstore Day.

Join the 3rd annual SEABookstoreDay Challenge:
If you visit three bookstores on the SEABookstore Passport Map, you’ll receive a 30% one-time coupon, good for any participating bookstore. If your passport has stamps from all 19 stores, you’ll get an invitation to the Grand Champions party and a Grand Champion Card, good for 25% off for the entire year at all participating bookstores (card must be presented along with ID). Visit the SEABookstoreDay Facebook page, Seattle Independent Bookstore Day site, and Independent Bookstore Day site for details.

Ada’s Technical Books

Book Larder – 4 p.m. A Year Right Here author Jess Thompson

BookTree Kirkland

Brick & Mortar Books

Eagle Harbor Books

Edmonds Bookshop

Elliott Bay Book Co.

Fantagraphics Books

Island Books

Liberty Bay Books (all locations)

Magnolia’s Bookstore

The Neverending Bookshop

Open Books: A Poem Emporium

Phinney Books

Queen Anne Book Company

Secret Garden Books

Third Place Books (all locations)

The Traveler

University Book Store (all locations)
U District store event schedule
Mill Creek store event schedule

Happy 100th birthday, Gordon Hirabayashi!

April 23, 2018 marks what would have been Gordon Hirabayashi’s 100th birthday. As a young man, Gordon learned the hard way that without a vigilant and engaged citizenry, our Constitution is little more than a scrap of paper. He took a stand and became one of the best known resisters to World War II incarceration—and we have much to learn from his example today.

Just days after his 24th birthday, Gordon challenged the government’s right to target and forcibly remove Japanese Americans without due process of law, and turned himself in to the FBI rather than going along with the forced removal. He paid a high price for his act of civil disobedience, spending the next nine months in a jail cell while awaiting trial and appealing his conviction, before being sentenced to prison when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against him. It would take more than 40 years to correct that injustice–but Gordon never gave up, and instead continued to fight for the rights of himself and all Americans.

In this excerpt from A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States, Gordon talks about how he arrived at the decision to disobey curfew orders and, later, exclusion orders:

Returning from New York, I became one of the leaders of the UW student conscientious objectors group right after the first peacetime conscription law [Selective Training and Service Act of 1940] was passed. . . . As for confronting the government, with all the information I had, I thought, “They’re wrong!” For me, my position was a positive one, that of desiring to be a conscientious citizen. It was this desire that prevented my participation in the military as a way of achieving peace and democracy and other ideals for which we stood. How could you achieve nonviolence violently and succeed? War never succeeded before. War has always caused more problems than it solved. I can’t say it’s wrong for everybody, but I can’t approve of it for myself. I couldn’t put my life on the line and put my efforts toward war with how I feel.

I wanted to work toward justice and peace in my own way. And there were others with whom I could do that, namely, liberal members of churches and political parties. We had a lot of protection actually. If we had to go to prison, treatment was all right, since the concept of conscientious objection was not ipso facto disloyal.

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, I went to the Quaker meeting as usual. After the meeting, a student came down from an apartment across the street: “I skipped the meeting this morning. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor! We’re at war!” It didn’t sound real. It was unbelievable, but it slowly sank in.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, acting under his emergency war powers, issued Executive Order 9066, which delegated broad powers to the secretary of war as well as U.S. military commanders to protect the national security. That protection included the right to remove any suspect individuals from military areas.

A proclamation, generally referred to as the curfew order, was issued on March 24, 1942, restricting the movement of certain individuals. General John L. DeWitt, who was the top military man in charge of the Western Defense Command, issued the curfew. It was applied to all enemy aliens—Germans, Italians, Japanese, plus non- aliens of Japanese ancestry—confining them to their residences between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., and restricting their travel to areas within a radius of five miles from their homes. The government and military kept using this term “non-alien” in identifying the second-generation Japanese Americans, who, after all, were actually U.S. citizens by birthright. The military seemed to feel more comfortable carrying out these orders if they didn’t have to think about applying them to other Americans. At first I responded as an ordinary citizen and obeyed government orders.

As I thought the situation over, however, I reasoned that a citizen is a member of a state: a person, native or naturalized, who owes allegiance to a state and is entitled to protection from it. An alien is someone who is not a citizen. What, then, is a “non-alien”? I felt forsaken as a citizen to be included in this strange kind of categorization. It appeared that the federal government was more interested in suspending citizens’ rights than in protecting constitutional guarantees regardless of race, creed, or national origins.

At my YMCA dormitory, there were about fifteen of us, mostly locals, but some from different states and a few internationals: one or two Chinese, a Filipino, and some Canadians. They became my time- keepers. “Gordon, it’s five to eight,” and I would rush back from the library, which was about two blocks from my UW dormitory, Eagleson Hall. And then it happened. One night, I thought to myself, “I can’t do that. I have to change my philosophy or I can’t do this, or I’m not true to myself, and if I’m not, I’m not a very good citizen to anybody. Why am I dashing back and those guys are still down there, and I could stay longer and get some more work done, too?”

So I went back to the library, and the first dorm mate who saw me said, “Hey! What are you doing here?”

I said, “What are you doing here?” “Working,” he responded.

I retorted, “Well, I’ve got work to do, too, same as you. Why should I be running back if you’re not running back? We’re both Americans!” My dorm mates never turned me in. They could have. I never was arrested for curfew violation or caught as I was roaming around the University District. If I had been living a half a block away at the Japanese Students Club, I would have been one of the forty or so residents who would be returning at five to eight. If that had been the case,I wonder whether openly confronting the racist curfew order would have occurred to me?

Members of the University of Washington Japanese Students Club in 1941. Courtesy of the UW Nikkei Alumni Association.

If I were to maintain my integrity in terms of my belief that I am a first-class American citizen, but then accepted second-class status, I would have had to accept all kinds of differences. But how is it that I could raise a question about being a first-class citizen when every day I experience differences that restrict my rights because of my ancestry?

The curfew and exclusion orders were issued, making the Nisei subject to those restrictions purely on the grounds of ancestry, but many Nisei found it possible to find a way to accept those orders in the name of loyalty and patriotism. I heard various reports from the Japanese community. Nisei came to have their lunch at the YMCA, and I dropped over to the Japanese Students Club from time to time. I heard that the Issei leaders were being picked up.

Among the community, all sorts of rumors were rife, and the concentration camp fever hit us all. Others will be picked up. There was a kind of resignation among us that because the Issei were prohibited from naturalizing, they were still Japanese subjects. And with war, they were technically enemy aliens. Therefore we expected that some restrictions would fall on them, that they would all be put into some kind of confinement. I remember trying to assure the Issei that, at worst, some things like that could happen, but if they did, we Nisei would look after their needs.

Shortly after the curfew order, the government posted an official proclamation on telephone poles and post office bulletin boards: NOTICE TO ALL PERSONS OF JAPANESE ANCESTRY, BOTH ALIEN AND NON-ALIEN. Civilian Exclusion Order No. 57 commanded all Japanese and Japanese Americans out of their homes and into special, totally segregated, camps.

In response to the Army’s Exclusion Order Number 20, residents of Japanese ancestry appeared at Civil Control Station in Sacramento. Photo by Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Soon enough, the districts of Seattle were on a deadline to move all persons of Japanese ancestry, “both alien and non-alien.” All this time I was thinking that when the last bus came, I would probably be on it. About two weeks before my time came, I said to myself, “If I am defying the curfew, how can I accept this thing? This is much worse, the same principle, but much worse in terms of uprooting and denial of our rights, and the suffering it’s going to cause.” While I had to agonize over that for a couple of days, the answer was inevitable. I found it necessary to keep myself internally intact.

I was a senior at the University of Washington. At the end of winter term in March 1942, I dropped out of the university. It was clear to me that I would not be around long enough to complete spring session. I volunteered for the fledgling local American Friends Service Committee, with Floyd Schmoe as my boss. [. . . .]

The top priority was to sensitively respond to needs arising among the Japanese Americans. The Quakers were responding to calls for help. My assignment involved helping those families with little kids whose Issei fathers had been picked up and interned immediately after Pearl Harbor because they were leaders of the community. The mothers were busy closing the houses, arranging for storage, and preparing young children to carry their things on the trek to camp. Gosh! Something seems wrong; helping people to go behind barbed wires and into flimsy shacks. What a mixed-up life this is—the American way. It really horrified me to help these families pack up their belongings, drive them down to the temporary camp at the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup, and leave them behind barbed wire.

Japanese Americans from Seattle arrive at the Puyallup detention facility, which was also known as “Camp Harmony” (a euphemism coined by army public relations officials days before the first Nikkei arrival and a name in common usage by camp survivors). Courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.

Those who saw me waving goodbye expected to see me within a few weeks, a prisoner myself. Then, somewhere in a period of a few days, it occurred to me that if I can’t tolerate curfew, how can I go with this camp deal, which is much worse? As long as I had come to this stage, I thought I couldn’t do it. It was only about a week before the last evacuee left, but by then, I knew I wouldn’t go! [. . . .]

My parents, who still lived in Thomas, were expecting to be uprooted sometime in May, and because we lived south of Seattle, the family was initially going to be sent to the center for Japanese Americans erected at Pinedale, California. They thought that I would be home in time to join them for the exodus. I had to explain what was happening to me and tell them that I would not be joining them. Because of travel restrictions and demands on my time by the Quaker service work, I had to telephone home to give my parents the unpleasant news.

My mother pleaded, “Please, put your principles aside on this occasion, come home, and move with us. Heaven knows what will happen to you if you confront the government. You are right and I agree with you, but this is war. We’re all facing unknowns. We are going to be moved, but we don’t know where or for how long. The worst of all would be that if we are separated now, we may never get together again.”

That was quite a concern to her if I continued to defy the government. My brother Ed heard Mom crying and begging. She had read The Count of Monte Cristo, and as that was her only reference to jails and prisons, she worried about the consequences of my decision. I might face the firing squad or something like that. I told her, “If I change my mind because of your pressure, it wouldn’t be good. I need to retain my own self-respect, because when I take this stand, I am following what I think is right. I can’t change my views, since I’d rather remain true to my beliefs and be true to you as your son.”

After the war, my brother Ed observed, “Once they had done all they could do to dissuade Gordon and saw they couldn’t change his mind, they became his greatest supporters and were proud of him, in spite of the terrifying thought of his being in prison.”

In a 1999 interview with Densho, Gordon reflected on his mother’s support, and his decision to take a stand:

Excerpt from A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States
By Gordon K. Hirabayashi
With James A. Hirabayashi and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi

This post originally appeared on the Densho Blog.

March 2018 News, Reviews, and Events

News

The University of Washington Press has an outstanding opening for an Editorial Assistant (job number 153892). Please help us get the word out to excellent candidates who are interested in getting into acquisitions!

We were thrilled to announce that starting March 1, 2018, the University of Washington Press joins the UW Libraries and reports to the vice provost of digital initiatives and dean of University Libraries, Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson. The Press and the Libraries currently collaborate on a number of joint initiatives, and the Press has also published a number of books in association with the Libraries. Read the full press release on the UW Press Blog and more at Shelf Awareness Pro.

Monthly Giveaways

Reviews and Interviews

The Spokesman-Review publishes an opinion piece by The Spokane River editor Paul Lindholdt.

The Indian Express features an article by High-Tech Housewives author Amy Bhatt about how US immigration policy is impacting Indian families.

The Seattle Times mentions Seattle Walks by David B. Williams in a Lit Life column about the Seattle Public Library’s Peak Picks program.

Light reviews Nasty Women Poets edited by Grace Bauer and Julie Kane (dist. Lost Horse Press): “This anthology is the burn, the salve on the burn, and the funny story you make up years later to explain the scar.”—Barbara Egel

Kotaku Australia includes Black Women in Sequence by Deborah Elizabeth Whaley in a round-up of comics-related Black History Month reads (2/15/18). The author also gets a mention in a New York Times opinion piece (no book mention; 2/16/18), which is syndicated and translated at Gazeta do Povo.

UW Today / UW News highlights news that UW professor emeritus and UW Press author Quintard Taylor has been awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Washington State Historical Society. The Forging of a Black Community gets a mention.

Redmond Reporter features Looking for Betty MacDonald by Paula Becker.

The Forbes Science / #WhoaScience stream features the second edition of The Orphan Tsunami of 1700 by Brian F. Atwater, Satoko Musumi-Rokkaku, Kenji Satake, Yoshinobu Tsuji, Kazue Ueda, and David K. Yamaguchi (published with US Geological Survey, Department of the Interior): “A rather beautifully illustrated account.”—Robin Andrews

Above & Beyond publishes an article about ptarmigans by Michael Engelhard. Ice Bear gets a byline mention.

University of Montana News features Douglas H. MacDonald and Before Yellowstone.

The Fil-Am Magazine and Inquirer.net US review A Time to Rise edited by Rene Ciria Cruz, Cindy Domingo, and Bruce Occena: “For anyone looking to engage in the issues they believe in or find inspiration amid today’s discouraging headlines, the lessons shared by former KDP members in A Time to Rise are deeply impactful. . . . Detailed and informative, the memoirs in A Time to Rise hash out the struggles that made the difficult road to justice possible. . . . More than a list of achievements, A Time to Rise is personal.”—Renee Macalino Rutledge

Association of King County Historical Organization (AKCHO) Heritage Advisor / News features Frederick L. Brown and his 2017 AKCHO Virginia Marie Folkins Award-winning book The City Is More Than Human.

The Art Newspaper reviews No Idols by Thomas Crow (dist. for Power Publications):”The greatest value of No Idols is in its widest implication: that even if we try, we cannot rid ourselves of the past. Art, stripped of its religious foundations, lives on in a secular world, but ghostly remnants will always remain.”—Pac Pobric

International Examiner mentions Monica Sone’s Nisei Daughter and Yoshiko Uchida’s Desert Exile in a review of Jeanette Arakawa’s The Little Exile.

Live Science mentions Ancient Ink edited by Lars Krutak and Aaron Deter-Wolf in an article about newly published research on prehistoric tattooing. The article interviews lead researcher and book contributor Renée Friedman, and her team’s original article is published in the March 2018 issue of Journal of Archaeological Science.

Ethnic Seattle features Monica Sone and Nisei Daughter in a Women’s History Month round-up of women of color writers from Seattle.

Diplomacy’s Public Dimension reviews Mediating Islam by Janet Steele: “Steele brings the strengths of an accomplished journalism and media scholar and twenty years of field research in Southeast Asia to a book that explores important questions. . . . Not least among many contributions in this important study is the way the author, a self-described Western, secular, female scholar, has engaged in sustained, productive cross-cultural dialogue with journalists in majority Muslim countries, many of whom are not liberal or secular.”—Bruce Gregory

Panorama Television (PCTV) “Now Where Were We?” interviews Lorraine McConaghy about Free Boy. Stream the segment on YouTube.

Food Politics blogger Marion Nestle features The Organic Profit by Andrew N. Case.

The New York Times Lens section’s latest Race Stories piece by Maurice Berger features Al Smith’s life, work, and Seattle on the Spot (dist. for Museum of History and Industry).

Cool Green Science (the conservation science blog of The Nature Conservancy) reviews Razor Clams by David Berger: “An entertaining account, and guide, to the real fun of digging your own food in the beach. . . . Berger’s book is an excellent testimony that gathering is still an enriching, fun and tasty pursuit. Long may it be so.”—Matthew L. Miller

Science interviews Ted Pietsch, coauthor of the forthcoming Fishes of the Salish Sea, about first-ever footage of living anglerfish. More via UW News.

Santa Fe Council on International Relations interviews Janet Steele about Mediating Islam.

The Seattle Times Outdoors section features two (out of six) spring hikes from Seattle Walks by David B. Williams.

Humboldt State Now interviews Cutcha Risling Baldy and mentions We Are Dancing for You in a news release about the 32nd Annual California Indian Conference to be held at Humboldt State University on April 5 and April 6. She is chair of the conference organizing committee.

Science to the People rebroadcasts their interview with Dawn Day Biehler about Pests in the City.

New Books Network interviews Frederick L. Brown about The City Is More Than Human (posted on the NBn American Studies, American West, Environmental Studies, History, and Native American Studies channels).

The Booklist Reader features Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart and recommends additional contemporary Filipino-American fiction: “Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart is a cornerstone of classic Asian-American literature.”—Terry Hong

New Books

A Family History of Illness: Memory as Medicine
By Brett L. Walker

While in the ICU with a near-fatal case of pneumonia, Brett Walker was asked, “Do you have a family history of illness?”—a standard and deceptively simple question that for Walker, a professional historian, took on additional meaning and spurred him to investigate his family’s medical past. In this deeply personal narrative, he constructs a history of his body to understand his diagnosis with a serious immunological disorder, weaving together his dying grandfather’s sneaking a cigarette in a shed on the family’s Montana farm, blood fractionation experiments in Europe during World War II, and nineteenth-century cholera outbreaks that ravaged small American towns as his ancestors were making their way west.


Firebrand Feminism: The Radical Lives of Ti-Grace Atkinson, Kathie Sarachild, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and Dana Densmore
By Breanne Fahs

Breanne Fahs brings together ten years of dialogue with four founders of the radical feminist movement and provides a timely and historically rich account of these audacious women and the lasting impact of their words and work.


Before Yellowstone: Native American Archaeology in the National Park
By Douglas H. MacDonald

Douglas MacDonald tells the long history of human presence in Yellowstone National Park as revealed by archaeological research into nearly 2,000 sites — many of which he helped survey and excavate. He describes and explains the significance of archaeological areas and helps readers understand the archaeological methods used and the limits of archaeological knowledge.


Olympic National Park: A Natural History, Fourth Edition
By Tim McNulty

In this updated classic guide to the park, Tim McNulty invites us into the natural and human history of thesenearly million acres and offers a detailed look at Elwha River restoration after the dam removal, inspiring descriptions of endangered species recovery, and practical advice on how to make the most of your visit.


The Spokane River
Edited by Paul Lindholdt

From Lake Coeur d’Alene to its confluence with the Columbia, the Spokane River travels 111 miles of varied and often spectacular terrain — rural, urban, in places wild. The twenty-eight contributors to this collection — including activists, storytellers, and scientists — profile this living river through personal reflection, history, science, and poetry.


Uplake: Restless Essays of Coming and Going
By Ana Maria Spagna

These engaging, reflective essays muse on rootedness, yearning, commitment, ambition, and wonder, and remind us to love what we have while encouraging us to still imagine what we want.


Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape
By Sarah R. Hamilton
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

Shifting between local struggles and global debates, this fascinating environmental history reveals how Franco’s dictatorship, Spain’s integration with Europe, and the crisis in European agriculture have shaped the Albufera Natural Park, its users, and its inhabitants.


Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan
By Jakobina K. Arch
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

In this vivid and nuanced study of how the Japanese people brought whales ashore during the Tokugawa period, Arch makes important contributions to both environmental and Japanese history by connecting Japanese whaling to marine environmental history in the Pacific, including the devastating impact of American whaling in the nineteenth century.


Transforming Monkey: Adaptation and Representation of a Chinese Epic
By Hongmei Sun

In this far-ranging study Hongmei Sun discusses the thousand-year evolution of Sun Wukong (aka Monkey or the Monkey King) in imperial China and multimedia adaptations in Republican, Maoist, and post-socialist China and the United States.


Medicine and Memory in Tibet: Amchi Physicians in an Age of Reform
By Theresia Hofer

Medicine and Memory in Tibet examines medical revivalism on the geographic and sociopolitical margins both of China and of Tibet’s medical establishment in Lhasa, exploring the work of medical practitioners, or amchi, and of Medical Houses in the west-central region of Tsang.


Making New Nepal: From Student Activism to Mainstream Politics
By Amanda Thérèse Snellinger

Based on extensive ethnographic research between 2003 and 2015, Making New Nepal provides a snapshot of an activist generation’s political coming-of-age during a decade of civil war and ongoing democratic street protests.


Mediating Islam: Cosmopolitan Journalisms in Muslim Southeast Asia
By Janet Steele

Broadening an overly narrow definition of Islamic journalism, Janet Steele examines day-to-day reporting practices of Muslim professionals, from conservative scripturalists to pluralist cosmopolitans, at five exemplary news organizations in Malaysia and Indonesia.


Buddhism Illuminated: Manuscript Art from South-East Asia
By San San May and Jana Igunma
Published with British Library

Buddhism Illuminated includes over one hundred examples of Buddhist art from the British Library’s rich collection, relating each manuscript to Theravada tradition and beliefs, and introducing the historical, artistic, and religious contexts of their production. It is the first book in English to showcase the beauty and variety of Buddhist manuscript art and reproduces many works that have never before been photographed.


Captive Light: The Life and Photography of Ella E. McBride
By Margaret E. Bullock and David F. Martin
Distributed for Tacoma Art Museum
Exhibition on view through July 8, 2018

Internationally acclaimed fine-art photographer Ella McBride (1862–1965) played an important role in the Northwest’s photography community and was a key figure in the national and international pictorialist photography movements. Despite her many accomplishments, which include managing the photography studio of Edward S. Curtis for many years and being an early member of the Seattle Camera Club, McBride is little known today. Captive Light reconsiders her career and the larger pictorialist movement in the Northwest. Captive Light is part of the Tacoma Art Museum’s Northwest Perspective Series on significant Northwest artists.


Julie Speidel: The Center Holds
By Matthew Kangas
Foreword by Rock Hushka
Distributed for Speidel Studio LLC

In this richly-illustrated monograph, the art of Julie Speidel is seen as one of myth and materiality, encompassing the creation more than four decades of numerous objects that inhabit a variety of locales and fulfill a wide variety of purposes. She has created sculpture in many different media and a variety of scale, as well as an impressive body of prints.

Events

MARCH

March 30, A Time to Rise edited by Rene Ciria Cruz, Cindy Domingo, and Bruce Occena, Bayanihan Community Center with Arkipelago Books, San Francisco, CA

March 30 at noon, Janet Steele, Mediating Islam, New York Southeast Asia Network and NYU Wagner’s Office of International Programs, New York, NY

APRIL

April 2 at 7 p.m., Shelley Drake Hawks, The Art of Resistance, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass Amherst), History of Art & Architecture, Amherst, MA

April 2 at 7 p.m., Ingrid Walker, High, King County Library System – Des Moines Library, Des Moines, WA

April 5 at 7 p.m., Ana Maria Spagna, Uplake, Whitman College, Reid Ballroom, Walla Walla, WA

April 6 at 6 p.m., Bruce Guenther, Michael C. Spafford (dist. for Lucia | Marquand), Jacob Lawrence Gallery, Seattle, WA

April 7 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Quin’Nita Cobbins, Paul de Barros, Howard Giske, Jacqueline E. A. Lawson, and Al “Butch” Smith, Jr., Seattle on the Spot (dist. for Museum of History and Industry), On the Spot Gallery Talk, Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Seattle, WA

April 7 at 10 a.m., Stevan Harrell, Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China, Saturday University: Textiles of Southwest China, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, University of Washington Jackson School of International Studies and Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle Art Museum, Plestcheeff Auditorium, Seattle, WA

April 8 at 3 p.m., Ana Maria Spagna, Uplake, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

April 9 at 4:30 p.m., Sylvanna Falcón, Power Interrupted, Wellesley College, 2018 Domna Stanton Lecture in Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley, MA

April 11 at 12:30 p.m., Paula Becker, Looking for Betty MacDonald, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Garfield Senior Center, Pomeroy, WA

April 11 at noon, Janet Steele, Mediating Islam, George Washington University, Sigur Center for Asian Studies, Washington, DC

April 11 at 7 p.m., Nasty Women Poets edited by Grace Bauer and Julie Kane (dist. Lost Horse Press), GA Nasty Women Poets, Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

April 13 at 7:30 p.m., Kathleen Alcalá, The Deepest Roots, with Donna Miscolta, Town Hall Seattle and Phinney Neighborhood Association, In Residence—History Is an Act of the Imagination, Taproot Theatre, Seattle, WA

April 14 at 10:30 a.m., Jennifer Ott, Waterway (dist. for HistoryLink), Redmond Historical Society, Old Redmond Schoolhouse, Redmond, WA ($5 suggested donation for Non-Members)

April 14, Eileen A. Bjorkman, The Propeller under the Bed, Oregon Aviation Historical Society, Cottage Grove, OR

April 17 at noon, Jakobina K. Arch, Bringing Whales Ashore, Whitman College, Whitman College Bookstore at Reid Campus Center, Young Ballroom, Walla Walla, WA

April 18 at 3 p.m., Shelley Drake Hawks, The Art of Resistance, Suffolk University, Boston, MA

April 19 at 3:30 p.m., Brett L. Walker, A Family History of Illness, University of Oregon, Department of History, Eugene, OR

April 21 at 3:30 p.m., Douglas H. MacDonald, Before Yellowstone, Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Missoula, MT

April 23 at 5 p.m., Shelley Drake Hawks, The Art of Resistance, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

April 26 at 3:30 p.m., Dorothy Ko, The Social Life of Inkstones, University of Washington, Seattle Campus, The East Asia Center and China Studies Program at the Jackson School of International Studies with the Seattle Art Museum, Thomson Hall,  Seattle, WA

April 26 at 7:30 p.m., Dorothy Ko, The Social Life of Inkstones, Asia Talks, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas, Seattle Art Museum, Nordstrom Lecture Hall, Seattle, WA (Free with RSVP; Doors at 7 p.m., Talk begins at 7:30 p.m.)

April 27 at 11:15 a.m., Marisol Berríos-Miranda, Shannon Dudley, and Michelle Habell-Pallán, American Sabor, MoPOP, Pop Conference 2018, Roundtable: Making American Sabor, Seattle, WA

April 27 at 5 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Timberland Regional Library – Raymond Library, Raymond, WA

April 27 – September 2, Adman edited by Nicholas Chambers (dist. Art Gallery of New South Wales), Exhibition, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA

April 27-28, Ana Maria Spagna, Uplake, Get Lit! Festival, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA (Tickets on sale March 27 at 10 a.m. PST)

April 28 at 10:30 a.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Timberland Regional Library – South Bend Library, South Bend, WA

April 28 at 2 p.m., David Berger, Razor Clams, Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, Timberland Regional Library – Naselle Library, Naselle, WA

Save

Save

American Society for Environmental History 2018 Conference Preview

We are delighted to attend the annual American Society for Environmental History conference (#ASEH2018) from March 14-18, 2018 in Riverside, California, and to celebrate this year’s theme, “Environment, Power & Justice.”

Senior acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks and exhibits, advertising, and direct mail manager Katherine Tacke are representing the Press. Join us at our booth to recognize new titles across environmental history and studies, including in the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books and Culture, Place, and Nature series.

Meet our authors at scheduled book signings and learn about other featured titles below!

Book signings with Andrew N. Case and Joanna L. Dyl

Thursday, March 15 at 10:00 a.m.

Seismic City: An Environmental History of San Francisco’s 1906 Earthquake
By Joanna L. Dyl
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

Combining urban environmental history and disaster studies, this close study of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake demonstrates how the crisis and subsequent rebuilding reflect the dynamic interplay of natural and human influences that have shaped San Francisco.

The Organic Profit: Rodale and the Making of Marketplace Environmentalism
By Andrew N. Case
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

Where did the curious idea of buying one’s way to sustainability come from? In no small part, the answer lies in the story of entrepreneur and reformer J. I. Rodale, his son Robert Rodale, and their company, the Rodale Press. For anyone trying to make sense of the complex tensions between business profits and the desire for environmental reform, The Organic Profit is essential reading.

Book signings with Brett L. Walker and Melanie A. Kiechle

Thursday, March 15 at 1:00 p.m.

A Family History of Illness: Memory as Medicine
By Brett L. Walker

In this deeply personal narrative, professional historian Walker constructs a history of his body to understand his diagnosis with a serious immunological disorder, weaving together his dying grandfather’s sneaking a cigarette in a shed on the family’s Montana farm, blood fractionation experiments in Europe during World War II, and nineteenth-century cholera outbreaks that ravaged small American towns as his ancestors were making their way west.

Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America
By Melanie A. Kiechle
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

What did nineteenth-century cities smell like? And how did odors matter in the formation of a modern environmental consciousness? Smell Detectives recovers how city residents used their sense of smell and their health concerns about foul odors to understand, adjust to, and fight against urban environmental changes.

Book signings with Sarah R. Hamilton and Jakobina K. Arch

Thursday, March 15 at 3:00 p.m.

Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape
By Sarah R. Hamilton
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

Shifting between local struggles and global debates, this fascinating environmental history of the Albufera Natural Park reveals how Franco’s dictatorship, Spain’s integration with Europe, and the crisis in European agriculture have shaped the working landscape, its users, and its inhabitants.

Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan
By Jakobina K. Arch
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

In this vivid and nuanced study of how the Japanese people brought whales ashore during the Tokugawa period, Arch makes important contributions to both environmental and Japanese history by connecting Japanese whaling to marine environmental history in the Pacific, including the devastating impact of American whaling in the nineteenth century.

New and Forthcoming in Environmental Studies

Footprints of War: Militarized Landscapes in Vietnam
By David Biggs
November 2018

Centering on the landscape of Central Vietnam, Footprints of War reveals centuries of military activities embedded in the landscape and explains how events such as the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hamburger Hill shaped patterns of land use as well as local memories of place.


Environmental Justice in Postwar America: A Documentary Reader
Edited by Christopher W. Wells
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter
Weyerhaueser Environmental Classics

This reader collects a wide range of primary source documents on the rise and evolution of the environmental justice movement. The documents show how activism by people of color and low-income American spurred the environmental justice movement of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Featured in Environmental Studies

Culture, Place, and Nature

Organic Sovereignties: Struggles over Farming in an Age of Free Trade
By Guntra A. Aistara
April 2018

This first sustained ethnographic study of organic agriculture outside the United States traces its meanings, practices, and politics in two nations typically considered worlds apart: Latvia and Costa Rica. Situated on the frontiers of the European Union and the United States, these geopolitically and economically in-between places illustrate ways that international treaties have created contradictory pressures for organic farmers.